Question of the Day: September 7, 2013

If you are reading this in an email you received from me, do not click the link to below. Use the link to my website that is farther down on the email. If you are seeing this in my blog, do the SAT Question of the Day by clicking on this link: (This link takes you to today’s question. If you use my archive, you will see the question related to my SAT explanation for that date.)

The answer is D.  Yes, sometimes the SAT and ACT questions are as easy as they seem.  Approximately 70% of over 5,000 students have gotten this question correct so far.  That’s way more than normal.

Because there are 7 sides with a total perimeter of 15 and each of the 7 sides is increased by 2 (a total increase of 7 times 2 = 14) the new perimeter is 15 plus 14, 29.  So, what can you learn about the test from this relatively easy question?

Always pay attention to where you are on the test.  Other than the Reading Passage questions and the 6 Writing questions that relate to the short passage, the SAT questions are always organized from easy to hard within each question format.  For example, in the 18-question math section, the first 8 multiple-choice questions are arranged from easy to hard and then the following 10 bubble-in (student-produced response) questions are arranged from easy to hard.  That means the first few bubble-ins are a lot easier than the last few multiple-choice.  So, for most students it makes sense to skip the last 1-3 (depending on math skills) multiple-choice questions and go do the the bubble-ins because you’ll get more questions correct in less time!

How else does understanding this “easy-to-hard’ arrangement help us?  Well, today’s question would certainly be one of the first few math questions and we don’t need to worry if we are being tricked or not–the question is as easy as it seems because it is in the beginning of a set of math questions.  On the other hand, if a question seems easy and it is near the end of the math section, it is NOT as easy as it seems and, therefore, there’s a trick or trap.  Proceed very cautiously and carefully check your work.  We do some questions like this in class and you’ll learn to recognize the tricky attractive wrong answers.

The ACT folks generally don’t organize their questions from easy to hard.  The exception is that if you consider the 60 math questions, the trend is certainly there.  Even though the questions don’t individually go from easy to hard and you’ll always find a few questions scattered throughout the test that don’t fit based on difficulty, the questions within groups go from easy to hard.  For example, if you consider the 60 questions as 6 groups of 10, the groups definitely get harder and harder.  You can bet the group from 10-19 is going to be easier than the group from 40-49.

Speaking of our ACT opponents from Iowa, I wonder what they have for us this morning. (The ACT staff does not put a date on their questions so if you click on an archived blog, you’ll get today’s question and the old explanation. Sorry. The SAT staff has dated their questions; so, their archive is helpful. The ACT folks simply don’t do that.)

The answer is C.  Wow, you can bet this question is from a VERY old test.  I haven’t seen a “divisibility” question in over 10 years on the ACT and even longer on the SAT.  Let me be a little nostalgic for a moment; here are some archaic rules you don’t have to worry about any more: divisible by 2–even final digit, divisible by 3–sum of digits is divisible by 3, by 4–last 2 digits must be divisible by 4 (e.g. 245,612 ends in 12), by 5–ends in 5 or 0,  and some more.  What the heck?  Why are these questions not going to be on the test anymore and this ACT question is a waste of time?  You have a calculator!  Just divide the numbers using it and if you get a decimal in your answer, you know there’s a remainder; so, you can eliminate the answer.  That’s why they aren’t on the test–modern technology!  C’mon ACT folks; quit wasting our time.  Get some new materials.

Now let me give my little speech about calculators.  Calculators are for doing calculations not setting up problems.   Don’t rely on your calculator too much.  Research shows that they only increase the average SAT student’s score less than 10 points!  I contend they can slow you down.  I never use one.  They only help you avoid simple math mistakes and help if you haven’t memorized the multiplication tables, etc.  On my videos and in class I mention things you should memorize (e.g. the squares through 18, decimal/fraction equivalents, doubling/halving, etc.) and explain how they are useful tidbits on test day.  It won’t be a waste of your time to spend a little time memorizing a few things.

Here’s a “pat on the back” from the Wizard for spending a little time on a Saturday working on improving your SAT/ACT performance.  Good for you.

Enjoy your day off.



About Bob Alexander

Bob has been a professional educator starting with teaching biology, becoming a school administrator, and then working as an education lobbyist in Washington, DC. He got his start in national testing by becoming a consulting test writer, later joining Kaplan as a director, and finally starting his own business in 1995. He has written numerous books, consulted for school districts and colleges, developed his website and been featured on a DVD set. He offers SAT and ACT prep classes and tutors individuals and small groups of students in central Florida.
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